Farm Horizons, February 2010

HLWW crop plot does well

By William Schanus

The Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted FFA planted a crop plot of 15.3 acres in the spring, and harvested a high-yield crop in the fall, thanks to the hard work of both students and alumni, who, together, tended the plot over the summer and fall.

The plot was maintained by a committee of HLWW FFA alumni and active members. It’s critical to have alumni and active members working together on the committee, because the alumni members have the knowledge and experience to make recommendations on what should be done for the next year’s crop.

They are also the main contributors of time, when it comes down to planting and harvesting the plot.

George, Tony, and Pat Bakeberg, along with Dennis Butterfass and Mark Diers, are the alumni committee members who worked closely with Adam Klinkner, Chris Diers, Alex Workman, Ethan Groos, Blake Klinkner, Clayton Hanson, Trevor Laxen, Sabrina Kieser, Sarah Marketon, and Dylan Youngren.

This group of active high schoolers and FFA members is led by FFA chairman Tyler Gruenhagen. His main role was overseeing and coordinating much of the work that went into the plot.

He worked with other members to solicit seed dealers for a variety of seeds for comparisons of yields.

The FFA yield calculations help other farmers in the area to make wise decisions for what they will plant the next year.

Gruenhagen, along with other members, cut grass and groomed the front of plot to keep it looking respectable.

Then, during the summer months, that group of individuals obtained signs, identifying the crop brand and type in order that farmers could view the growth and development.

Finally, during harvest, kids help calculate yields, check moisture and tabulate all of the data the FFA received.

Once all the results are brought together and analyzed, a letter is composed with all of the information the FFA compiled and is sent to every seed company who donated.

It is no coincidence that the FFA chapter has been putting up wonderful yields every year.

Many tedious hours are put in by determined members to ensure the success of the FFA crop plot, year after year.

None of this could have happened without the help of many prominent businesses in the FFA communities.

Wrightway Ag originally supported the FFA crop plot, and now Centra Sota has taken on that role.

Centra Sota provides some varieties of seed for planting and applies pesticides and fertilizers, before and after harvest.

Clem Crowley (an employee of Centra Sota) works closely with the FFA chapter in maintaining the plot, and the FFA is deeply indebted to him for the work he puts forth.

The yields the FFA got would never have been as high as they were without the huge donations and support received from the FFA communities.

The members who participate in the crop plot get more than the experience of production agriculture first-hand.

Those lucky individuals learn key management skills when they make decisions about seeding rate, which pesticides and fertilizers to apply and when, harvest time, tillage methods, conservation, etc.

The deal becomes even more fruitful because not only will they gain knowledge in farming, but the students who participate have the privilege of conducting a Field Day and publishing the results after harvest.

Members who participate in the crop plot Field Day take a day off from school before the harvest to talk to local area farmers and seed company representatives about how the FFA crop has gone, the different hybrids and products that they offer, and what they believe should be done to ensure a greater yield for the years to come.

Another bonus is that the harvested crop is sold to a local farmer, and the money the FFA receives, in turn, goes directly into an account for a much-needed greenhouse for the use of the FFA chapter. The greenhouse will be owned and operated by the FFA chapter.

Therefore the FFA members can develop smart money management skills through those transactions.

This past year’s crop plot was harvested Nov. 19, 2009.

It produced 4,100 bushels of corn on 15.3 acres which resulted in an excellent yield of 267 bu/acre.

This is definitely one of the best yields in the FFA area.

The HLWW FFA chapter is looking toward a bright future because of what the FFA crop plot does, in turn, for the FFA members.

Members will continue to learn about production agriculture by working with the plants grown in the FFA greenhouse and in the construction of the greenhouse, itself.

Also, the FFA can build strong public relations with the FFA alumni members who assist the FFA chapter in the planting and harvesting of the plot.

The crop plot is more than just a parcel of land used for farming; in a way, it brings the FFA community together and enables those who work on it to gain priceless knowledge, leadership, and motivation that will last a lifetime.

Orignally, the plot idea was conceived during the winter of 2007, when the school board and superintendent of the HLWW school district approached FFA with the proposition of farming land that was not being used for ballfields or buildings, with the understanding that the land could eventually be used for whatever means the high school thought necessary.

Soon afterwards, a committee of HLWW FFA alumni and active members were assembled to discuss what would become of this 17.2 acres of land. It was then decided that the land would be used towards the chapter’s crop plot, and corn would be the first crop to be planted. As time went by, it was decided to reduce the the 17.2 acres to 15.3 acres.

See table of plot results (pdf)

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